The year was 2004 and I was a kid out of college, traveling on a measly artist stipend, unsure of what I was suppose to be doing next. And although by ‘college’ I mean graduate school and by ‘kid’ I mean I was already 26, having graduated from a very expensive program that was mostly unexplainable to anyone, the world was still a scary place.
Mark, Dan and I were working together in Nice, France, when one day Mark announced that he’d been in touch with this guy, Andy Cameron, who was looking for some people to do physical computing at Fabrica. We decided that he was looking for us, and so, after our work was done in Nice, we hopped on a train to Venice, Italy.
The funny thing about life changing moments is that you only realize them for what they were long after they happened. At the time, I was only thinking ‘wow, room and board for one week in Italy! score!’, but that first trip to Fabrica, by invitation of Andy Cameron, would eventually spell out who I am today.
Andy was intimidating at first. He was tall and commanded an air of authority with that perfect British accent, but I eventually learned to get on his good side. His personality was that of an enthusiastic curious kid and he had no problem joking around and hanging out with us-the Fabrica students-who were 20 years younger than him. He drove a funny looking car, and was always generous about giving rides (we didn’t have cars, so that was always a luxury). His hands were bigger than his 12″ powerbook keyboard but he thought it was the perfect sized laptop, and he often had issues with syncing his phone to his computer (this was the era before the iPhone was invented). He rolled his own cigarettes, swore a lot, and was fun to be around most of the time.
The almost perfect and idyllic life at Fabrica was plagued by bureaucracy, and Andy became both our demanding boss and a father figure. Without us really knowing, he fought to have our work be recognized. He was the one who had to explain to the big bosses why our projects were cool, why they needed us there, why it was crucial to move beyond making websites, and why interactive art matters. The latter mostly fell onto deaf ears, but he was very persistent about it. He’d give me reading assignments and we’d have discussions over contemporary art theories. Because just saying ‘this interactive stuff is cool’ didn’t have enough weight to convince the conservative gallerists in Venice, we had to craft an argument that what we do is —besides being new and engaging— critical, important and should be seen as Art, the capital A kind. Occasionally I’d blow up with frustrations and tell him that we’re talking to the wrong people, because they didn’t seem to listen or care. Andy would respond “I’ve been doing this a long time, we just have to keep at it, we’re very close.”
Overtime his efforts paid off, and I learned that things don’t always happen the way you want them to, that reaction sometimes happen very slowly, and that you really do just have to ‘keep at it’. He genuinely believed in the future of interactive art, even when at times it felt like we were trying to fit square pegs in round holes.
As a kid out of college, full of ideals but facing a world of doubts, I now look back in awe at how extremely lucky I was to have had Andy as my mentor. He taught me how to give and receive criticism, how to put together ideas and write proposals, and how to filter out the bullshit. When I doubted our work, he would tell me to be confident. He also showed me, time and again, although not by his own desires, how it felt to have your work rejected and how to deal with it. In his own way, he taught me how to keep cool, how to be diplomatic, and most importantly, how to not give up when things fall apart.
If, as they say, the world was my oyster, then Andy Cameron showed me how to get to the pearl.
I haven’t thanked him enough for it all. It wasn’t something you’d just bring up. Over the years we kept in touch via email, updated each other on our work and I would promise that we would try to visit in London when we can. He’d always asked about our travel plans and all of his emails would end with variations of ‘hope to see you very soon.’ I never slightly expected that there would come a day where it wasn’t going to be possible.
There are well written tributes for Andy on both Creative Review and Design Week, he’s clearly been an influential force and touched so many lives. The 18 months I spent working with him now feels like a tiny blip in history. I am humbled and extremely blessed.
Thank you for everything, Andy. I’m sorry I didn’t make it back to visit Treviso again, or to London to check out your office, or to your house in Le Marche, or even get to catch up on your trip to the States. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.
I vaguely remember the day we took this photo. It was middle of the summer and for some reason, half of the Interactive department were away that day (yet it was the day we had to take a group photo?).
I believe the photographer was Reed Young, but I could be wrong. We had to go down to the photo studio as a group and think of something creative to do as a department. Someone had suggested ‘hey maybe we should tie Andy up’, or maybe it was Andy himself. From that we thought we’d make a kidnapping scene, but we clearly didn’t have enough props. Why would Carlo be holding a ball? Is Oriol suppose to be a janitor? While Juan looks like he just got done taping up Andy’s legs, Hansi looks like he doesn’t really want to be there, much less holding the phone. Why isn’t Federico wearing any shoes???
I can’t even remember what the photoshoot was for, as I don’t think that this was ever used in anything (too ridiculous for print, probably). I remember photoshopping in the Fabrica Interactive logo and thought it was perfection.
Edit note: the photog was Boris Shiu, and this was his trial project at Fabrica.
A line from an email telling me about attending and talking at OFFF in Barcelona:
“…My role is to go on and talk about art and games and blah blah bourriaud and wah wah Calillois and so on, and then they go right back to ‘if you want to draw a flower, use this actionscript….’ type show and tell sessions. I guess i should grow a long white beard and they can call me the prof.”
When I told him we were going to Europe for a wedding but couldn’t make it to London:
“…how can you come to Europe and not come to London! Doesn’t make any kind of sense. You should really come by for a day or something. The w+k place in London is fabulous, so achingly ridiculously trendy I sometimes just have to laugh out loud. I’m growing a white beard so I can stroke it thoughtfully and look like I’m thinking deep thoughts. That’s my job now. ”
Andy: by the way, I missed you and mark in hamsterjam last month – I was there on nokia business and saw you were also there. I left you a message on twitter but I guess you didn’t see it.
Ann: OMG! arg! why would you leave a message on twitter!?
Goodbye Andy, you were so kind and we are truly blessed to have had you in our lives.